History of Labour Law Formation

Prior to delving into the origins of Indian Labour Laws, let’s explore the reasons behind their necessity. The history of labour regulations in India dates back to the late 1850s, a time marked by conflict between manufacturing firms and artisans, which spurred the growth of cottage industries in the country. In subsequent years, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) was founded in 1919 with the objective of safeguarding workers’ rights and principles.

As per the International Labour Organisation (ILO), nations that have ratified its conventions are obligated to eliminate all forms of forced or compulsory labour. This encompasses not only the elimination of practices that enable such labour, such as prolonged working hours and inadequate safeguards against dismissal, but also extends to broader ideals. Indian cinema, notably Bollywood, mirrored the challenges and hardships faced by Indian labourers, with films like “Kaala Patthar” and “Mazdoor” vividly depicting their struggles.

Labour laws encompass an extensive array of regulations governing the rights and responsibilities of employees and organisations. They form a crucial framework that strikes a balance among workers, employers, and trade unions. These laws can be divided into two primary categories. The first category focuses on the relationships between employers, employees, and trade unions, while the second addresses the individual rights of employees. Labour laws span a variety of domains, including:

  • Industrial relations: This involves overseeing equitable labour practices and the operations of trade unions.
  • Workplace safety: It encompasses establishing safety standards and mechanisms to address unfortunate incidents.
  • Employment standards: This covers protocols for layoffs, regulations concerning work hours, provisions for minimum wages, and provisions for leaves.

The Evolution of Labour Laws After Independence

The labour law framework of post-independence India was initiated with the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947, as the newly independent nation aimed to establish a clear collaboration between labour and capital. The foundation of this collaboration was unanimously endorsed during a tripartite conference held in December 1947. In this conference, the agreement was reached that labour would

receive fair wages and improved working conditions, while capital would gain the cooperative support of labour for uninterrupted production and enhanced productivity, all as part of the strategy for national economic advancement.

India boasts an extensive array of labour laws, let’s take a look into a few of significance:

  • The Factories Act, 1948: This legislation addresses crucial aspects such as working hours, safety measures, worker facilities, and conveniences, as well as employment conditions for women.
  • The Minimum Wages Act, 1948: This act mandates the payment of minimum wages to both skilled and unskilled labourers.
  • The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947: The primary objective of this act is to ensure industrial peace and harmony. It achieves this through mechanisms and procedures for investigating and resolving industrial disputes via conciliation, arbitration, and adjudication, as outlined in the statute. This law is applicable exclusively to the organised sector.
  • Child Labour (Prohibition) Act: This act prohibits the employment of children under the age of 14 in hazardous occupations.
  • The Employees’ State Insurance Act: This legislation provides coverage for employees’ health protection against potential workplace injuries, sickness, and other related issues.